A Complete Do It Yourself Guide For Maintaining Your MotorbikePosted On: October 1, 2011 By : Ayush Dhaubanjar
Most of us Nepalese motorcyclists usually have that queer habit of simply riding our motorcycles without the slightest interest in some basic maintenance procedures. Motorcycle maintenance is not only an essential part of motorcycle ownership but it can make a huge difference between safe riding and getting stranded, or worse, taking a spill on the road. Regularly going through the general maintenance procedures is bound to keep your motorcycle in great condition and will minimize those unpleasant surprises on the road. It could be quite an eye opener for many of you out there when you learn that some of the basic maintenance check could actually be easily done on your own. One should never risk compromising the safety and stability of their motorcycle, just for the sake of trouble of routine maintenance. You don’t respect the machine and it’s bound to bite you back.
Listed below are some basic maintenance tips that we think every biker should religiously perform on their motorcycles. Autolife will also be breaking down these tips to a full-fledged do-it-yourself guide for your convenience on our forthcoming issues of the magazine. So stay tuned!
1. ENGINE OIL
Engine oil plays an important role in ensuring smooth operation and maintenance of the bike. Oil level should be between the upper and lower marks as denoted in the engine case. Always check your oil level on level ground with the centre stand on and when the engine is cold. Top up engine oil if required. An under filled oil level can be disastrous leading to a seized engine while over the limit oil may flood your air filter with oil. Also check for oil leakages. The oil thickens due to carbon deposits and creates a drag in the movement of the engines internal mechanism. So, engine oil should be changed at manufacturer recommended intervals as running the bike on dirty oil will not only increase fuel consumption but also reduce the life of the engine. Ensure that it’s the right amount and grading as per your owner’s manual. Be careful to not allow foreign matter and dirt to fall in during the inspection process.
2. SPARK PLUG
The spark plug is the most crucial link in proper ignition for combustion in the engine. Do not neglect the spark plug and ensure it is clean with the gap correctly set or replace it if it is past its prime. The spark plug should be regularly cleaned possibly at every 1500 km.
The clutch should always be properly adjusted and have the right amount of free play. An over tightened clutch will cause it to slip unnoticeably and increase the fuel consumption while a loose one could lead to faulty gear changes. Check cables regularly for damages, bends and frayed ends. If one or more strands appear broken in the ends, replace immediately. Regularly apply grease on the lever pivot point, and get some lube down the cables with a cable oiler for smooth operation.
4. FUEL LINES AND FILTER
Fuel is literally food for the motorcycle, so check the fuel filter to make sure it is not clogged and looks clean. It should be replaced every 2 years. Next check the fuel lines for weather damage or cracking and replace immediately if any is found. Always turn the fuel tap to off position when parking your motorcycle to prevent any fuel potentially leaking out and flooding the carbs or the engine. Every 1500 km, you should clean out the carburetor float chamber and jets, by forcing compressed air through them.
5. AIR FILTER
The air filter is responsible for filtering the air intake required for the combustion process into the chamber. Clean the air filter regularly as dusty conditions in Nepal tend to clog up the filter in no time. Change the air filter at recommended intervals.
The humble motorcycle battery is a very common cause for breakdowns. But all it needs is some periodical maintenance to ensure a long and trouble free life. Check the electrolyte or fluid levels against the top and bottom markings on the battery shell on a monthly basis. If any chamber is low, carefully top it up with distilled water and NOT tap water. Tap water contains minerals that will not do the battery any good. Some newer batteries are gel filled and sealed for life, so there’s no need with the fluid level check on these ones. Make sure that it’s clean and free from any leakages. When inspecting the battery also check cables, clamps, and the case for obvious damage or loose connections and clean terminal connectors as necessary. Whenever the lights are dimmer than normal and the starter or the horn sounds weak, it could be the battery that needs charging. Also if the motorcycle hasn’t been used in more than two weeks, the battery should be fully charged and electrolyte level should be at top mark.
Always check that all your headlights, brake lights and side lights are properly functioning. It is very important to have your lights in proper condition for your vision and for other motorists on the road to spot you. For instance without the brake lights, you could easily get rear-ended by a speeding motorist on a dark night. Do be aware of what all the warning lights on your speedometer means.
Make sure you keep your motorcycle in pristine condition by regularly washing it. Give it a once-in-a-while cleaning with cleaning solutions that are tailor made for bikes. Clean the hidden areas as well and ensure it’s absolutely free of dirt and grime, which could lead to rust in the metal parts. Lower the pressure on the jet washer when washing on painted surface as the paint could peel off. After you are done with the wash, dry it and give it a polish with bike wax and it will be just like how you rolled it out of the showroom.
When you are riding on a motorcycle eventually you will have to stop and brakes are the only mechanism that brings the motorcycle to a complete halt. So always check that they work and feel good before your start off. Keeping them too tight or too loose are both dangerous. Brakes should be adjusted as per the rider’s personal riding style and requirement. To ensure that brakes are not binding, put the bike on the centre stand and ensure that both the wheels are spinning freely. Also check the thickness of the brake pads. If it is thin then it’s due for replacement. If you allow them to go right down to the metal, your brake disc will be damaged resulting in an unnecessary and expensive replacement. Check brake hoses for deterioration and fluid levels in the reservoirs. Replace brake fluid once a year or as per requirement, from a new sealed bottle and your brakes will perform the best they can.
10. NUTS AND BOLTS
The nuts and bolts on your motorcycle are responsible for holding every bits and parts together. So check regularly if all the accessible nuts and bolts on your bike are properly tightened. It is strongly recommended to do the same before setting out on any long rides and after getting back too.
The drive chain is responsible for transferring power from the engine to the rear wheel. So to ensure proper power delivery, always check the chain tension and make sure it’s well lubed. The chain should be well lubricated and have the right amount of slack. Running too loose can risk it coming off while too tight will soon wear out the sprockets and bearings. Lubricate them often with oil, grease or chain spray with the bike on main stand. Ensure that you spray on all the sides of the chain. It is best to lubricate your chain after a ride when the chain is warm so the oil can easily soak in and get into all the tight spots of the chain. Wipe off excess oil and spin the back tyre to ensure that the rest of the chain is lubricated when it comes into contact with the sprocket and pinion.
A good set of bearings assures uniform and stable movement in any mechanism. So it’s equally important to have your motorcycle bearings, wherever applicable, in proper condition. To check the wheel bearings, grab each wheel with it off the ground and see if there is any sideways play. There should be none or maybe a trace at most. And with the front end off the ground, grab the forks and push and pull to check for the steering head bearings. There should be no play. Lastly with the back wheel off the ground, check for any sideways movement in the swing arm, for faults in the swing arm bearing.
Regularly check your tyre condition and air pressure. Ensure that your tyre pressures are maintained at manufacturer recommended levels. Optimum air pressure in the tyres is very important for maximum road grip, stability, riding comfort and longevity of the tyres. A tyre that is very under-inflated affects handling and generates a lot of heat that can possibly lead to a blow out, while over inflated tyres make the motorcycle ride harsh, and are more prone to damage from surface hazards. Also check your tyres for deep cuts and scrapes and inspect the tyre treads once a month. Tyre damage is one of the most common motorcycle breakdowns. So replace your tyres sooner rather than later. No wonder the Moto GP riders never compromise on their tyres, as most often it is all that stands between them and the podium.
Well, that’s about it for the basic maintenance procedures. Most of the maintenance here can be done by the motorcyclists themselves, provided there is a proper do-it-yourself guide, which we will be providing from the next issue onwards. While for the bigger jobs you will have to visit the garage unless you are a good home mechanic. Even if you are too lazy to work on your motorcycle yourselves, at least keeping these pointers in mind could pretty much make you aware of the condition of your motorcycle. At least now you know that your bike is not fully serviced with just an oil change and a jet wash!